Regional elections confirm fragmentation of German politics

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The clouds that have accumulated over the “grand coalition” in power in Germany for over a year not only did not clear on Sunday, but perhaps even darkened a bit.

In the elections in the eastern states of Saxony and Brandenburg, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their junior Social Democratic partners each lost a lot of support compared to the identical elections in 2014. The Alternative far-right for Germany (AfD) came second in both states, well ahead of the other parties.

However, the CDU won in Saxony and the SPD won in Brandenburg, giving the “grand coalition” in Berlin a chance to stage itself until the next Bundestag elections, scheduled for September 2021. If the coalition survives, much of it will be for the negative. reason why every party fears the consequences of an early national election.

According to exit polls, the CDU won 32 percent of the vote in Saxony, the most populous of the five states of former communist East Germany. The CDU can take comfort in having resisted a major challenge from the AfD. However, the CDU’s vote share fell by almost 8 percentage points compared to its performance in the 2014 elections in Saxony.

Meanwhile, in Brandenburg, a stronghold of the SPD since German reunification in 1990, the Social Democrats are said to have won 27.5% of the vote, against 31.9% in 2014. While that was enough to dominate the ballot in the Brandenburg, the SPD achieved a disastrous performance in Saxony, with around 8% of the vote.

The individual national elections are by no means an accurate guide to the results of the national elections, but the downward trend in support for the two German mass parties is undeniable. In the 2017 Bundestag vote, each achieved their worst result since the restoration of democracy in West Germany after World War II. The trend has continued since then in the elections to the West German Länder and in the European Parliament elections in May.

The CDU and SPD now face tough choices, made worse by an economic slowdown in Germany that owes much to international trade tensions and the unraveling of the US-led world order that has for decades provided a solid basis for the prosperity and political stability of Germany.

The CDU, after replacing Merkel with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as party leader last year, must decide whether or not to stand for the next Bundestag elections, whenever they are held, with their new leader as a candidate to the Chancellor. His volatile performance and declining popularity with German voters over the past eight months has given plenty of ammunition to his internal CDU critics.

For its part, the SPD, which is struggling to choose a new leader after the party’s heavy defeat in the European elections, will soon begin a review of the “grand coalition” which must include a reflection on the advisability of withdrawing from the partnership. with the CDU.

The more difficult questions to answer are, first, whether an early election to the Bundestag would simply doom the SPD to yet another crushing defeat, and, second, whether a more radical political platform, as advocated by the leftists, would have big chances of winning back the voters of the Greens, AfD and other parties.

The Saxony and Brandenburg elections illustrated the continued strength of the AfD in East Germany. The party combines a vehement anti-immigration message with the image of a movement that stands up for Orientals, many of whom see themselves as ignored or abandoned by elites who promised much and delivered less after reunification.

Arguably, however, the AfD’s results were lower than expected, as some pre-election opinion polls had suggested until a few weeks ago that the party could win at least one of the two eastern states. Instead, it seems difficult for the AfD to make a decisive breakthrough, even in the east.

This illustrates that the main impact of the AfD on German politics is to contribute to the fragmentation of a party system that has been dominated for decades by the CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU on the right, and by the SPD. on the left, with the Free Liberal Democrats. and the Greens do the rest.

With the two mass parties in relative decline and the AfD seen as a completely unacceptable coalition partner by everyone at the national level, the task of forming stable governments to run Europe’s largest economy becomes increasingly important. and more delicate.

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